Game 5 Film Breakdown | Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Guarding Giannis with a “Wall”
The revered Bucks transition attack, spearheaded by Giannis Antetokounmpo, has been dulled by the Raptors’ defense. While Kawhi Leonard is doing a sensational job, all 5 Raptors are pulling their weight.
Toronto is meeting Giannis early when he attacks in semi transition to slow down his momentum. Instead of giving him space to attack (like a similarly poor shooting Pascal Siakam is often provided with), the Raptors have went to the opposite end of the spectrum and met him with contact before he can build a head full of steam.
More importantly – the off-ball Raptors are sinking towards the lane lines and the paint early in possessions. They are showing Giannis length to clog up driving lanes, and by being in position early, they only have to make one fluid motion to close back out to shooters, rather than the typical two-motion dig to drive that is followed by a hastily executed closeout.
Doubling Giannis’ Post Ups
Toronto has decided that Giannis will not beat them on his own – and that continues with their defensive scheme when he posts them up.
Even against the well-equipped Leonard, Toronto is doubling Giannis with their Centre every time he gets a touch on the low block. Regardless of where the Centre is positioned relative to Giannis, they make a B-Line sprint to the low block and the remaining Raptors cover the Weak Side.
Toronto has done a good job of forcing Giannis to retreat towards the sideline while they leverage non-shooters on the Weak Side of the floor to neutralize the advantage gained by putting two defenders on one player.
The 6 times Toronto doubled Giannis in the post in Game 5 lead to just 0.33 Points Per Possession.
Forcing Kawhi Left
While Toronto is building walls to slow down Giannis, Milwaukee has gone a different route to stop Kawhi Leonard in isolation
They have decided to influence Kawhi to his left hand on every possession. To counter this, Toronto is starting such isolation possessions on the right wing. Effectively, this means the Bucks’ choice to influence Kawhi to his left hand funnels him directly towards the paint with his defender trailing.
To increase the advantage, Kawhi is attacking his defender’s top-foot with a right-hand attack before he even attempts to go left. This forces his defender into illegal defensive position, allows Kawhi to go to his preferred right hand, and/or pushes his defender higher up the floor to create further separation before attacking the paint.
On the 10 possessions used in which Kawhi started an isolation on the right side of the floor when Milwaukee influenced him to his left hand, Toronto scored 1 Point per Possession. Additionally, they drew another 2 non-shooting fouls.
Kawhi vs. “Switch”
While Milwaukee’s coaching staff is often criticized for a lack of adjustments, they did change a fair number of things in Game 5. Among the most notable was their willingness to switch most screening actions after going through much of the year being religiously opposed to such defensive coverages.
However, this change did little good for the Bucks in terms of defensive production. While Kawhi may have been goaded into some tough shots (do they exist for him?), Toronto scored a blistering 1.85 Points per Possession on the 13 possessions used after the Bucks “switched” a defender on to Kawhi.
Funnily enough, while Kawhi hit three notable 3-Pointers after a “switch”, a ton of Toronto’s effectiveness against this coverage came because of Kawhi’s willingness to pass the ball. He often drew multiple defenders once he secured a “switch”, which lead to 4 assists (all were 3-Pointers).